Saturday, June 30, 2012

ANS -- George Lakoff: How Right-Wingers Scam People Into Buying Their Toxic Philosophy

Here's the latest interview of George Lakoff.  He sounds like he's almost given up on liberals getting the messaging right.  We just keep talking about policy when we should be talking moral frameworks. 
We aren't going to get anywhere until we do what he suggests. 
Find it here:  

AlterNet / By Joshua Holland
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George Lakoff: How Right-Wingers Scam People Into Buying Their Toxic Philosophy

Here is what progressives can learn from right-wing messaging.
June 29, 2012  |  
Photo Credit:


Progressives often find themselves explaining the details of their preferred policies, and arguing that they would maximize the common good if enacted. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to eschew the fine print to embrace sweeping, moral narratives to back their positions. For the Right, debates over concrete public policies are often framed as contests between good and evil, freedom and tyranny; that's how, for example, conservatives can transform a modest 3 percent tax hike on the wealthiest Americans into pernicious "class warfare" and an intolerable example of "socialism."

Call it a "rationality trap." For years, George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at the University of California Berkeley, has argued that these tendencies put progressives at a huge disadvantage in our political discourse because the human brain simply doesn't process information in coolly analytical terms. Rather, people judge ideas against a larger moral framework, and by offering policy analysis rather than morality tales, liberals go to bat for their policies two strikes down in the count.

Lakoff and co-author Elisabeth Wehling discuss how these dynamics play out every day in American political debates in his new book, The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic. He appeared on this week's AlterNet Radio Hour; below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: George, in the book you talk about what you call "moral frames." Can you give us a quick definition of what that is and how it plays out in our discourse?

George Lakoff: Yes. All politics is moral at the base. Any political leader who gives you some sort of prescription of what to do does it because he says it's right, not because he says it's wrong or doesn't matter. Everybody thinks it's right.

But there are two different ideas of what right is. This is very important. Let me give you a short version of this that applies mostly to economics. The basic idea behind democracy in America is the idea that citizens care about each other; that they act socially as well as individually to cash out that care, and they try to do as well as they can in doing that both for themselves and for others. They do this by having the government create what we call "the public." The public provision of things; things for everybody – roads, bridges, sewers, public education and public health, like the Centers for Disease Control. Clean air, clean water, the provision of energy, communications and so on. These are all the sorts of things that you can't live a life without. A private life or a private enterprise. Every business depends on all of these things. The private depends on the public. That is a moral issue. That is how we care about each other.

Conservatives have a very different view of democracy, which follows their moral system. Their moral system is more complex than ours is. The basic idea in terms of economics is that democracy gives people the liberty to seek their self interest and their own well-being without worrying or being responsible for the well-being or interest of anybody else. Therefore they say everybody has individual responsibility, not social responsibility, therefore you're on your own. If you make it that's wonderful. That's what the market is about. If you don't make it, that's your problem.

Those are two opposite views of a moral system applied to economics. Those are straightforward, everyday examples. They apply very interestingly in the case of privatization. The right says, 'privatize as much as possible. Get rid of as much of the public as you possibly can. Make everything private if possible.' The other side says no. The public requires hiring private contractors all the time -- to build roads or public buildings -- but there's a limit. And the limit has to do with morality. When it comes to moral issues like education, health or the environment -- which has everything to do with morality and people caring about each other -- there you don't put that in private hands for private profit. That is the line that needs to be drawn.

Those are truths that are deeply embedded in the point of view of a progressive morality. There are other truths that are from conservative morality. They're opposites, and because they're opposites you're going to get conflict. One thing that's important to understand is that most people have a little of both. Most people are conservative about some things and progressive about others. Some people are almost all progressive and some are almost all conservative.

But there are a lot of people who are mixed and they're called moderates or centrists, though there is no explicit ideology of the moderation. There's no ideology of the independent or the swing voter. What you have are two different moral systems in the same brain which inhibit each other. One is active and the other is inactive. Activity in one turns off the other. The more one is active the stronger it gets and the weaker the other one gets.

What's happened in this country is that language activates that moral system. The moral system is realized in frames. Frames are conceptual structures that we use to think in context. Language is defined in terms of those frames. When you use language that is conservative it'll activate conservative frames which in turn activates conservative moral systems and strengthens those systems in people's brains. That's been happening for the past three decades. Conservatives have a remarkable communication system and a language system that they've constructed. They get out there and use their language and frames and repeat them over and over. The more they repeat it the greater their effect on people's brains. Democrats don't do that and as a result the conservatives have framed almost every issue.

What The Little Blue Book does is show how to deal with that. How to understand your own moral frames and how to see deep truths that conservative frames hide. For example: that the private depends on the public.

JH: I think this is a really important point that you get at in the book – that people don't evaluate issues in isolation. Sometimes you'll see the polling on something --  one example is that overwhelming majorities of people, even those who identify as conservative, say the government should do more to alleviate poverty. But when you get into specific policies that would achieve that end, you find very different results.

You write, "when you mention a specific issue all of the frames and values higher up in the hierarchy are also activated. They define the moral context of the issue."

So, are we all just fooling ourselves when we cite public opinion on some issue or another, and assuming that people will rationally support politicians who agree with us on those issues?

GL: Yes, you're fooling yourself. Let me give you some striking examples of that. A lot of it depends on how the questions in the poll will be framed. When Obama was elected, before he took office, he had his pollster go out and check to see what possible provisions of a healthcare plan people would like. It turned out the provisions like capping expenses, or covering people with preconditions, or allowing your children to be on your healthcare plan when you go to college -- everybody liked those, like 60 to 80 percent of people, and they still do.

What was interesting is that conservatives never attacked them. Conservatives never came out and said we shouldn't cover preconditions or you shouldn't have your children on your healthcare plan. They didn't attack any of those provisions. What they did is they went to morality, as it is from their perspective. They said we're going to have two moral principles here, freedom and life. From their perspective this was a government takeover and there were death panels. And they repeated government takeover and death panels over and over until a lot of the public – people who liked all of the provisions of the plan -- were now against the plan. The plan got minority support.

So here you have the president come out week after week, and David Axelrod coming out, saying this is a wonderful plan and here are the provisions. David Axelrod at one point sent out a memo to all the people on the Obama list -- 13 million -- saying go to your neighbors and here are 24 points of the plan to remember, but just to make it easier there are three groups of eight. Nobody remembers those three groups of eight. Meanwhile the other guys are saying government takeover and death panels.

JH: A while back, I interviewed Richard Viguerie, who is a longtime conservative activist. He said something very interesting to me. He said that his fellow travelers were descendants of monarchists, and as a result, they were very receptive to top-down messaging strategy in a way that liberals are not.

We do see this again and again where you get very similar talking points from the lowest level of the conservative blogosphere to members of the Senate Republican Caucus. Is there a tendency for liberals or progressive people to not be as easily swayed by messages that are coming from above?

GL: No. They're just as easily swayed. Turn on MSNBC and you'll hear the same messages every night. You get talking points from the DNC and they're all about policies. You're going to talk about this policy and that policy and so on, but you're not going to talk about morality.

There was a period when I was involved with a think tank called the Rockridge Institute, and MoveOn, when it was a young organization, asked its members for the 2004 election what they wanted to see in the future of the country. They thought they would get hundreds and hundreds of new proposals. They had people pair up and have a discourse about the kinds of things they wanted to see. We got a big stack of all these things and started going through them. After about the first half inch, they were all the same. Everybody said the same thing.

If you go and look at progressive foundations and look at their mission statements there are between a dozen and two dozens things they all say, and then they're all the same. Progressive are just the same as conservatives on it, but they don't know how to communicate their messages. What they wind up doing is talking about policies, rather than the moral basis of those policies.

JH: I think one of the most important trends in our politics these days is the mainstreaming of extremism on the Right. I certainly remember when Bill Clinton was in office you had these militia guys running around. There were these crazy conspiracy theories – Clinton was accused of drug trafficking and murdering a bunch of his political opponents. Those views were kind of consigned to the fringe -- your crazy right-wing uncle would forward chain emails with this stuff.

Now you see politicians like Michele Bachmann who believe that energy efficient lightbulbs are some sort of UN plot to undermine the free enterprise system. You have elected politicians going on Fox and saying that Obama wasn't born in this country. In the book, you talk about this trend. How does this new extremism fit into your analogy about families? You've long said that conservatives look toward a strict father figure in governance, and liberals tend to embrace a more nurturing parent model.

GL: This goes back to 1996 to a book I wrote called Moral Politics, which talks about that at great length. The idea is this: we understand that we have two very different family models in this country. They rise from two different understandings of morality. Morality as nurturing and morality as obedience to legitimate authority. Those give rise to different types of families. A strict father family has a father who is the ultimate authority which cannot be challenged. His job is to teach kids right from wrong, assuming he knows that, and his wife's job is to uphold his views. The children are taught right from wrong by punishment, and painful enough punishment so that they'll try to discipline themselves to do right and not wrong. And then if they have that discipline they can go out into the world and be prosperous. If they're not prosperous that means they're not disciplined and so they deserve their poverty.

This idea projects onto every aspect of social life, not just to our national life but also onto the market, onto religion, onto foreign policy, the military and so on. What that does is create a very different view than progressives have about all of these things. When you have a lot of people with both of these views -- we all grow up with both of them there -- each one is in a neural circuit. That neural circuit is in mutual opposition to another neural circuit. Each of those two inhibit each other. When one of those circuits is activated over and over, more than the other, the stronger it gets and the weaker the inactive one gets. The stronger one of these circuits gets, the more influence it's going to have over various issues.

What has happened over the years since the "Gingrich revolution" is that he worked to get rid of candidates in the Republican Party who were partly progressive. He made them as conservative as possible and he got conservative messaging. That messaging went unchallenged by Democrats. They just responded with policies. So the conservative messages have been getting stronger over the years and conservative populism has been growing because there are a lot of working people in this country, especially men, who are strict fathers at home. Those ideas of "family values" can then be extended into political, economic and religious ideas. That's what's happened.

There has been more and more of an audience for conservatism because those ideas become stronger in the brain because of the media control of the Right. It's not illegitimate media control. The Left could do just as well but they don't because they don't know how to speak in moral terms. What happens is that as the parts of those people's brains gets stronger you get more and more extreme conservatism. That's not surprising. It just follows from the fact that they have a very strong and communicative system that Democrats don't and don't want to put into effect. That has been a very effective system. The way that people's brains work will just give this result.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

ANS -- Bail Out the Banks or the People?

This is a link to a 6 1/2 minute video of Cenk Uygar talking about
what happened to Iceland when they decided to arrest the bankers and
bail out the people instead of bailing out the banks.
But how do we get to where we even have the option of doing that next time?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ANS -- Join the Losers: Shame, Pride, and the 99%

Here's a philosophical piece, from Doug Muder.  It's about the difficult mental thing we need to do to make justice and equality in the world. 
Find it here:  

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Join the Losers: Shame, Pride, and the 99%

a talk given January 29, 2012 at First Parish in Billerica, MA

[earlier versions were presented at the Unitarian Church of Quincy, IL and First Parish Unitarian in Athol, MA]

We Are the 99%". Maybe you've seen it. People write their story on a single sheet of paper and then post a photo of themselves holding the paper. By now there are more than a thousand stories on that site.

Here's one:

"I am a 20 year old college student trying to better myself and my family by gaining an education although my husband and I both know that with the way things are, we're both almost better off working our minimum wage jobs that we have and are barely scraping by with than even attempting to do anything more. we rely on government assistance for food/medical/daycare, work insane hours each week to get by and still cant afford basic necessities.

Our combined 100 + hr work week shows no profit. None of our jobs provide medical (which due to asthma, I cannot go without medications or I will die. Since a stable home for my children is more important that my own health, rent comes before my $150 prescriptions)

My husband is trying to find another full-time job on top of the one he has so we can stop relying on assistance but due to a buy out and closing of the company my dad worked at, so are 900 other people in the area who are suddenly unemployed or like my dad, took a 75% pay cut and can't afford their bills anymore."

I AM THE 99%

Here's another: "Got my bachelor's. Got low-paying job. Business went under. Defaulted on 70K student loan debt. I make less than 20K a year -- 2 jobs. Not enough to pay debt. No dental/health. 6 cavities -- used car -- no savings -- no $ in bank."

There's another web site called "We are the 53%". It's a response to the 99% site, and it uses the same format. The title comes from the fact that only 53% of American households owed any income tax last year. In spite of the fact that most of the other people pay plenty of other taxes, "the 53%" has come to symbolize those Americans who are pulling their weight, as opposed to the rest who are baggage.

Interestingly, the people considered to be baggage are not the idle rich, who need no jobs. They're not trust-fund kids, who have never worked, but live on vast inherited wealth. No, the baggage, the 47%, are often like the folks on the 99% site, who might work two or three minimum-wage jobs, but can't make the minimum amount to get into the lowest tax bracket.

The first 53% post was put up by Erick Erickson, who is actually quite well-to-do and famous. He started, the premier conservative group blog, and now he's a commentator on CNN. He tells his 53% story like this:

"I work 3 jobs. I have a house I can't sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don't blame Wall Street.

Suck it up, you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain."

With that post as a model, the site drew posts from people whose lives are much harder than Erickson's:

"I get up at 4:30 a.m. to work a job that pays me to get yelled at. I work around 50 hours per week, but still struggle. I've given up luxuries, shop clearance racks, do not own a new car or a home.

But I pay my bills and my taxes. I work hard to do so. I am an American. I am the 53%."

Here's a similar story that's been shared on Facebook. It doesn't come from the 53% site, but expresses a similar attitude:

"I am a college senior, about to graduate completely debt free. I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hrs a week making barely above minimum wage. I chose a moderately priced, in-state public university and started saving $ for school at age 17.

I got decent grades in high school and received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition. I currently have a 3.8 GPA. I live comfortably in a cheap apartment, knowing I can't have everything I want. I don't eat out every day, or even once a month.

I live below my means to continue saving for the future. I expect nothing to be handed to me, and will continue to work my @$$ off for everything I have. That's how it's supposed to work. I am NOT the 99%, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision.

So who are the people who aren't making it? Do they deserve our sympathy or our scorn? CNBC's Rick Santelli goes for scorn. In his viral YouTube rant from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, he raised this question: "I'll tell you what. I have an idea. The new administration's big on computers and technology -- how about this, president and administration? Why don't you put up a web site to have people vote on the internet, as a referendum, to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages ... or if we'd rather reward people who could carry the water rather than drink the water."

And finally, here's Herman Cain, in an interview with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal. And I'm picking on Cain not because what he said is unusual, but because it is typical. Cain just said it more plainly than anyone else:

"Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself. … When I was growing up, I was blessed to have had parents that didn't teach me to be jealous of anybody, and didn't teach me to envious of somebody. It is not a person's fault because they succeeded. It is a person's fault if they failed."


From kindergarten to eighth grade I went to a Lutheran elementary school, where I spent nine years with the same core group of about 20 kids. We had a lot in common: same small town, same religion, and a lot of the same advantages -- we were all white, from middle-class, two-parent homes, no major disabilities, and so on. In general, we were also pretty good students. Our parents hoped we would go to college, and most of us eventually did.

But in spite of all our similarities, we had a pecking order -- two of them, one for boys and one for girls. God knows how we came up with it or what we based it on, but it stayed remarkably rigid from year to year. I had a place in that order that, but I did not achieve it on my own. I was the best friend of the most popular boy.

Until seventh grade. That year a new kid transferred in. He was athletic and handsome, and he already had friends in the eighth grade class. He very quickly became the new best friend of the most popular boy, and my place in the order plummeted. By the time the reshuffling was complete, I was second boy from the bottom. But at least I wasn't last.

Another kid was. As I said, he was not that different from the rest of us. If you had met us all one-by-one, you probably couldn't have picked him out as the one destined to be the doormat. But there he was.

After my downfall, he was the only one who wanted to be my friend. He tried to sit next to me. He did me little favors. He invited me to his house. Now, I wish I could tell you that I reciprocated, that we had a bunch of great adventures, and that we are still in touch today.

But that's not how I thought in seventh grade. What I wanted more than anything was to get out of being Second Boy From the Bottom, and I was never going to do it by hanging around with him. Better, I thought, to be alone on the lowest rung of the ladder than to form a two-boy leper colony at the bottom.

That grade-school way of thinking often shows up in the adult world of politics. If you are near the bottom of society's ladder, your most natural allies are the people below you. But it is so hard to group up with them. As corrupt and unfair as you know that ladder to be, it is so, so hard to let loose of that one rung you have and make common cause with the people at the bottom.

And so the same pattern plays out again and again. During the Civil Rights era, many of the people who fought hardest against integration were those at the bottom of the white pecking order. Whiteness was the one advantage they had, and they didn't want to lose it.

Similarly, many of those who fought hardest against women's equality were men near  the bottom of the male pecking order. And where do you see those American-flag decals and the bumperstickers with jingoistic slogans? Not so much on Cadillacs and BMWs. No, you're more likely to see them on rusted-out pick-up trucks. The closer you are to the bottom of the American pecking order, the more dearly you hang on to the idea that Americans are better than everybody else.

If you've only got hold of one rung of the ladder, you hang onto it. That's how humans think.


Now, that human trait is very convenient for the people at the top. Because the more people get pushed down onto the lower rungs, the harder it is for them to unite to change the ladder or make it easier to climb.

I doubt I'm telling you anything you don't already know if I say that inequality has been rising in America. The economy as a whole has grown a lot since the 1970s, but (after inflation) the median household income has not grown, and in the 21st century it has actually dropped. And even those statistics are too rosy, because often they compare today's two-income households with the one-income households of decades past. People are working longer and sometimes harder, but not benefitting from it.

You will hear many explanations for the increasing inequality. Some will tell you that people who work with their brains are pulling away from people who work with their hands. Or that the educated are pulling away from the uneducated. Or that those who understand technology are pulling away from those who don't.

And while all those things are happening to some extent, the economists who study inequality say that they are secondary effects. The trend that drives all the other trends is that the people at the very top are pulling from everyone else. It happens at every level. The top 10% are pulling away from the bottom 90%. Within the 10%, the top 1% are pulling away even faster from the other 9.

Worst of all, it seems that the law itself is different for the very wealthy. When the housing bubble popped, bankers were bailed out but home-owners weren't. When Goldman Sachs was charged with committing fraud, it paid a fine, a small percentage of its profits. No one went to jail.

Bank of America has foreclosed tens of thousands of homes illegally. Again, they will probably pay a fine and no one will go to jail. Will those families get their houses back? Maybe, if they can wait through years of litigation. Or maybe not.

By contrast, when ordinary people protest against this kind of fraud, say by camping out in public parks, their lack of proper permits calls down the full wrath of the law. Police show up in riot gear with pepper spray and rubber bullets. But police never shoot tear gas into board meetings of Goldman Sachs.


In a democracy you would think it would be impossible for 99% of the people to be dominated by 1% or a tenth of a percent or 400 households.

So how is this happening? Well, obviously, the 99% have not been able to pull together to defend their interests.

Why not? That brings me back to the way humans think. If you examine your own mind, you will see the buttons that the 1% can push.

When we are victimized by an unjust economic system, it is remarkably easy to make us feel ashamed of our own victimhood, or to use our pride and denial and resentment to turn us against the system's other victims.

How does that work? Let's start with shame. Rick Santelli had a name for the people who can't pay their mortgages -- Losers. And Herman Cain laid it right on the line. If you're failing, he says, don't be angry at the system or at the people on top, be ashamed of yourself.

Psychologically, shame is the first line of defense of any unjust system.

In 7th grade, I could have rejected the whole idea of a pecking order and been nice to the boy who was being nice to me. But I didn't, because I was ashamed to be Second Boy From the Bottom. I was too ashamed to quit the game while I was losing.

During the Depression, some unemployed men from prosperous suburbs kept dressing for work and taking the train into the city, because they were ashamed to let their neighbors know they were unemployed. Some didn't even want their wives to know.

People who are ashamed don't change the world. They don't protest and they don't organize. They hide.

The 1% would love it if we all hid our losses from each other and kept up appearances and pretended that everything is fine.

To me, that's the biggest significance of the 99% movement so far. Those people who march in the streets or publish their photos and stories on the internet -- they aren't hiding. They are rejecting the system's attempts to shame them into silence. Those pictures on the 99% site are saying: "Look at me. I am losing in this economy. This is what a loser looks like in America today."

If you spend much time paging through that website, you'll probably see that they look a lot like the rest of us. The losers look a lot like you and me.


Now that is a scary thought, and fear tends to evoke another very human reaction: denial. No one likes to be scared.

So when you hear about someone whose situation scares you -- the parent whose child vanishes into thin air, the athlete who suddenly drops dead, the old person who is too frail to keep working but too poor to retire --  when you meet someone whose situation makes you worry about your own situation, the most natural response in the world is to try to find some difference between them and you, some waterline where you can imagine that the tide of misfortune will have to stop.

You may not set out to blame the victim, but still we'd all love to find something that the victims did wrong that we always do right. The woman with lung cancer -- did she smoke? The guy who got mugged -- I never go to that neighborhood. The lifelong employee who got laid off -- that couldn't happen to any of us, because we're different.

And when you find that difference, that waterline, it's so tempting to build an imaginary wall there, to exagerate, to turn a small difference of degree into a clear difference of kind.

So if they stay ten minutes past quitting time and I stay 20, then I am hard-working and they are lazy. If some choice I made has turned out better than their choices, then I am wise and they are foolish. If they broke a single commandment that I have kept, then I am upright and they are sinful.

An unjust system's second line of defense is to help us build those walls of denial, to help us convince ourselves that the people below us on the ladder are of some other species entirely.

And to the extent you accept that separation, you help justify the whole ladder. If losers belong to a different species, then maybe the CEOs do too. Maybe they deserve to rule over us.


But even if your virtues don't make a different species, you do still have virtues. And that's how denial gets mixed up with legitimate pride. If you are managing to tread water in difficult times, then you have a right to be proud of the fact that you haven't drowned yet. But those who are treading water are kidding themselves if they imagine that they are a different kind of person than those who have gone under.

That's what I think is going on on that 53% web site. The woman who gets up at 4:30 to be yelled at, works 50 hours a week, doesn't own anything, and still struggles to pay her bills -- she deserves to feel proud of her efforts. And yet, is her story really so different from the stories on the 99% site?

And why is life that hard? Is that just "how it's supposed to work"? Or is life so hard because our society has made choices that favor the rich? Could we make different choices?

Likewise, that college senior who has no debt and works her ass off is imagining a sturdy wall that separates hard-working people who make good decisions from everyone else. She pictures herself on the deserving side of that wall, and imagines that she will always be there -- because luck plays no role in her world, and decisions that seem wise at the time never turn out badly down the road.

So that is an unjust system's third line of defense: appealing to your pride. They will tell you that what you take pride in only has meaning within their value system. If you deny that the current system is founded on merit and virtue, then you have denied all possible standards of merit and virtue.

The thought of making common cause with the people below you is supposed to offend your pride, because some of the people down there don't share all your virtues.

But of course, some of the people above you don't share your virtues either -- they don't work hard and don't take risks and don't make the world better for others. But you're not supposed to pay attention to that. That's just how life is. Even to bring that issue up, we are told, is engaging in class warfare, in "the bitter politics of envy", and the "resentment of success".

Resentment does play a role here, but not the way the 1% would have you believe. Again, let me illustrate from my childhood. Growing up, I wasted very little time thinking about the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Multiple homes in exotic locales did not rouse my envy. But if my older sister got two scoops of ice cream when I only got one, that was not fair.

Resentment tends to stay close to home. It's much easier to resent people who are almost like you, but have some small advantage. Maybe they have just a little more than you, or maybe they have exactly what you have, but didn't work as hard or suffer as much to get it. Those are the people that it's easiest to resent. Not the billionaires.

And so, an unjust system's fourth line of defense is to deflect your legitimate resentment away from the real beneficiaries of injustice and onto your neighbors.

Last spring, when the bill to take away the collective bargaining rights of public employees was being debated in Wisconsin, the Club for Growth blanketed the state with a very effective ad. It talked about the sacrifices that private-sector workers in Wisconsin had been forced to make to save their jobs, and listed the cuts in their benefits and wages.

But where did the ad suggest those workers should focus their resentment? Should they resent the owners, who pocketed those sacrifices as higher profits? Or the executives who raised their own pay while firing some employees and squeezing concessions out of the rest?

Oh no. The ad wanted Wisconsin's distressed private-sector workers to focus their resentment on the public-sector teachers and nurses and bus-drivers who hadn't made equivalent sacrifices yet.

If my money has been transferred to the rich as profits, then my sister's money should be transferred to the rich as tax cuts. It's only fair.


Supposedly, we are the 99% and this is a democracy. If we can hang together, it ought to be possible to re-write the rules so that the economy works for ordinary people again.

But there are big obstacles against us holding together. You don't have to look far to see them, because they are sitting right in your own brain:

•the shame you feel in your own defeats;

•the denial that makes you want to say, "That couldn't happen to me";

•the pride that sets you above anyone worse off;

•and the resentment you feel against those who are only one or two rungs higher.

Those impulses sit in your brain for good reasons. In other circumstances they serve you well. You ought to criticize yourself and try to learn from your failures. In the face of adversity, you need to identify reasons to hope. You deserve be proud of all the things you're doing to keep your head above water. And you should stand up for yourself when others are treated better than you.

So I'm not saying you should throw all that stuff out of your head. That would be naive advice, because I can't do it myself. I am ashamed, I am in denial, I am proud, and I resent all the wrong people -- just like everybody else.

All I'm saying is: Pay attention. Watch yourself. Shame, denial, pride, resentment -- those are ways you can be manipulated into working against your own interests and against people whose problems are just like yours.

The manipulators have enormous resources. You hear their message from all directions: The people who want change, the people who are protesting in the streets or in the occupation encampments -- they are losers. They are lazy, jealous, misguided, dirty, disgusting, unreasonable, and violent. They are minions of some dark conspiracy against all that is good. You should be ashamed to have any connection with them. Instead, you should identify with the 1%, because you want to join the winners, not the losers.

Of course you do. Everyone wants to join the winners. And if it were that easy, we all would. Every one of us would say, "Starting right now, I'm going to be a winner."

But it's not that easy. The deck is stacked against ordinary people, and it's going to stay stacked until we all do something very difficult: We need to join the losers. We need to look down the ladder and see not what makes us different from the people below, but what makes us the same.

When we find the courage and the confidence and the compassion to do that, then, together, we really do become the 99%. When we do that, we really do have the power to rewrite the rules, enforce them justly on the rich as well as the poor, and make this country work again for everyone.

Closing Words

"Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." -- Eugene Debs

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ANS -- Nanoparticles Produce Renewable Hydrogen from Wastewater and Sunlight

Here's news of another big jump forward in renewables.  I hope this can really be made to work on a commercial scale. 
Find it here: 

Nanoparticles Produce Renewable Hydrogen from Wastewater and Sunlight


Derek Markham
Technology / Clean Technology
June 7, 2012

© HyperSolar
Recent breakthroughs in the development of a renewable hydrogen technology will allow the use of almost any source of water to produce renewable (and carbon-free) hydrogen fuel.

Producing hydrogen with a conventional electrolysis system uses electricity to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water molecules, but one big drawback to this method is the need for highly purified water as a source. But a new technology from HyperSolar eliminates this need, as it claims its nanotechnology can use "any source of water, including seawater and wastewater" to produce hydrogen, which would significantly reduce both the number of steps in the process, as well as the cost involved.

HyperSolar's new technology uses a low-cost polymer coating and a small-scale solar device together to make a self-contained particle that can separate hydrogen from any water, using just the Sun's energy.

ANS -- Solar energy use expands, drops in cost

This is from the California "Capitol Weekly", and it's about solar.  Which is becoming less expensive than grid energy.  It's fairly short.
Find it here:

Solar energy use expands, drops in cost

By Daniel Kammen | 06/07/12 12:00 AM PST
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U.S. Navy veteran Elmer Rankin, 71, has a failing heart, prostate cancer and arthritis that keeps him in a wheelchair. Last year, Rankin, who survives on his Social Security checks, could no longer afford the mounting costs to heat his home and power the oxygen tank he uses every night. He turned down the heat and got so cold that he wound up in the hospital.


Fortunately, while Rankin's health remains precarious, today he's no longer scrambling to pay for power. Thanks to rooftop solar panels - paid for with a California subsidy - Rankin's monthly energy bill has dropped from an average of $250 to less than $22. Last month he paid just $1.09. On sunny afternoons, he likes to sit and watch his electricity meter run backward.

"Solar power didn't just save me money - it saved my life," he says.


Like clouds temporarily blocking the sun, the continuing partisan debate about Solyndra - the Fremont solar power firm that went bankrupt last year despite a $528 million federal loan guarantee - has obscured the more important story taking place in the solar energy field: Clean, renewable solar power is rapidly becoming a mainstream, affordable U.S. energy option - and a boon to our overall economy.


The solar industry worldwide has been growing by 50 percent annually. In the United States, solar power now costs less than 20 cents per kilowatt hour - less than many Americans pay for electricity.


Per dollar invested, solar energy is also the highest job-producing component of the country's energy economy. The U.S. solar industry has already produced more than 100,000 jobs - a doubling since 2009 - and another 25,000 are expected over the next 12 months.


California's government has been making smart investments - including the one that Rankin credits with saving his life. The California Solar Initiative is devoting approximately $2 billion in utility ratepayer funds by 2016 to install solar systems. So far, it has helped pay for solar panels on more than 112,000 homes, making California a national leader in this cost-effective strategy, which reduces peak energy costs and water demand, improves air quality, and puts thousands of people back to work.


What's particularly inspiring is how many of California's new megawatts have been quietly improving the lives of people, like Rankin, who until recently have been left on the sidelines of the global race for green energy. Low-income families spend more of their earnings on electricity than do the well-to-do but lack the capital to cut those costs with efficiency upgrades, such as solar panels.


Since 2007, California has been making solar more affordable to people like Rankin with rebates, innovative financing programs and "net-metering" options that allow system owners to sell power back to the grid.


In a first-of-its-kind solar program, California's Single-family Affordable Solar Homes project provides incentives for low-income homeowners to go solar, while also developing livelihoods for people like Eduardo Huerta, a father of five, who got work installing solar panels after losing his job as a stucco plasterer during the recession. "I'm proud to have work again, and even more that it's work that helps my community," says Huerta.


The solar homes project is administered by an Oakland nonprofit, GRID Alternatives, which installs solar electric systems exclusively for low-income families, making green energy easy by designing the systems, obtaining building permits, and submitting rebate paperwork. GRID Alternatives has helped save residents approximately $50 million on their electricity bills, reducing greenhouse gases by 171,000 tons over the next 30 years, and trained more than 9,000 people in solar installation.


These days, some in Congress are still trying to make the case that government support for solar power is a losing proposition. Yet there's plenty of evidence that it's now time for the rest of the country to follow California's lead. Smart investments and models like GRID Alternatives can bolster America's competitiveness worldwide and brighten the futures of thousands of Americans like Elmer Rankin and Eduardo Huerta.

« Done

ANS -- Connecting the Dots: How Climate Change is Fueling Western Wildfires

We were hearing about the fire in Colorado, and now  here is this article connecting the recent big fires to global climate change.  It's a fairly short article, by the National Wildlife Federation.
Find it here:   
PS The chart lost it's formatting in my email -- if it doesn't make sense to you, go to the site and look at the neat little chart. 
I included comments because one of them disagrees and talks about wildfire management.

Connecting the Dots: How Climate Change is Fueling Western Wildfires

from Wildlife Promise

14 6/15/2012 // Amanda Staudt // Arizona, carbon pollution, climate change, Colorado, extreme weather, High Park Fire, New Mexico, Texas, Whitewater-Baldy Fire, wildfires


Whitewater-Baldy Fire, New Mexico on June 6, 2012. Credit: Kari Greer, USFS Gila National Forest.
Western wildfires are dominating headlines in June – but the media coverage focuses only on effects while ignoring a major cause. We hear about an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires. And separately, we hear about ongoing global warming, like how May was the 2nd-hottest on record globallybehind only May 2010. Why aren't those dots being connected?

There's compelling evidence that talking about western wildfires without mentioning climate change is like talking about lung cancer without mentioning cigarettes. I want to walk you through what's happening out west right now, what the latest science tells us about why it's happening, how it's affecting people and wildlife in the region, and what we can do about it.

The Latest Major Fires

The consequences of carbon pollution are immediately apparent to residents of Colorado this week. More than 52,000 acres of forest have burned since lightning started the High Park Fire on June 9. Smoke has been wafting over Fort Collins, as stands of pines have been going up in dramatic blazes. The fire is already the second largest in the state's history, exceeded only by the 2002 Hayman Fire. Of course, the High Park Fire is only 15% contained, so it may well take the leader spot in the days to come.

In the meantime, New Mexico is in the midst of fighting the largest wildfire in its history. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire has already burned nearly 300,000 acres, mostly in the Gila National Forest. This fire comes on the heels of the Las Conchas Fire last summer, which ranked as the largest New Mexico wildfire at the time. What's worse, heavy rainstorms after the fire was extinguished led to major flooding and erosion. Sediment and ash were washed downstream into the Rio Grande, affecting drinking water for Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico.

Climate change is literally fueling these and other major fires in western states. In fact, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas have all had fires since last year that ranked as one of the two largest in their histories (see table). The frequency and extent of fires in recent decades is unlikely to happen under natural conditions. With one catastrophic fire after another, it is clear that something quite different is happening to our forests.





Area Burned (acres)



East Amarillo Complex




Rock House



New Mexico


Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire


290,127 (so far)


Las Conchas Fire





Wallow Fire




Rodeo-Chediski  Fire





Hayman Fire




High Park Fire


52,068 (so far)

Climate Trends and Forest Fires

Climate scientists have identified several ways that a warming planet will increase forest fire risk. Not surprisingly, all of these factors are fanning the fires we've been seeing recently in the western United States.
  • Longer fire seasons: Western forests typically become combustible within a month of the snowpack melting, which is happening 1 to 4 weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago. This year, an unusually warm and dry winter resulted in one of the smallest snowpacks in Colorado history. As of June 1, the snowpack was only 2% of its normal extent.
  • Drier conditions: Climate change is expected to bring more frequent and more intense droughts to the Southwest, perhaps shifting the area to a more arid climate. As of the end of May, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas all had areas in the grip of severe and extreme drought.
  • More fuel for forest fires: Widespread beetle infestations have left broad swaths of dead and highly combustible trees in their wake. Higher temperatures enhance winter survival of mountain pine beetles and allow for a more rapid lifecycle. Ecologists in Colorado recently confirmed that beetle populations are able to complete two generations during longer, warmer summers, leading to a possible 60-fold increase in the number of beetles.
  • Increased frequency of lightning is expected as thunderstorms become more severe. In the western United States lightning strikes could increase by 12 to 30 percent by mid-century. Both the High Park fire in Colorado and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire in New Mexico were ignited by lightning.

Communities, Firefighters, Taxpayers & Wildlife Bearing the Costs

Communities can be rocked by wildfires. During the last decade, property losses in the US have averaged $1 billion annually. Take the town of Bastrop, Texas, home to just over 7,000 people who braved the most catastrophic wildfire that state had ever seen last fall. More than 1,600 homes were destroyed and two people lost their lives. Insured property losses for the fire totaled $325 million, and clean up cost another $25 million. That's on top of the millions spent to put out the fire in the first place.  Dealing with these sorts of disasters also takes an emotional toll on people, as discussed in a recent NWF report on the psychological impacts of climate change.

Firefighters are having to adapt to the new wildfire realities. They are struggling to keep up with these longer fire seasons, which in some places are now effectively year round, leaving little time to regroup and prepare for the next incident. Moreover, they are finding it harder to control fires, in part because fires are less likely to quiet down at night like they used to. Nighttime conditions are hotter and drier, meaning that fires can stay active around the clock.

Taxpayers are footing the bill for fighting these fires. The cost of wildfire suppression­about $3 billion a year­has tripled in the United States since the late 1990's. The majority of these expenses are borne by the U.S. Forest Service, which now spends around half of its annual budget on fighting fires.

Wildlife is not immune to the impacts of increasing fire frequency and intensity. Many ecosystems have evolved so that episodic fires are part of their natural rhythms, but are struggling to cope with the new fire patterns. These mega-fires are trapping animals that would otherwise be able to flee, causing widespread habitat destruction, and even causing wholesale landscape conversion.

Cutting Carbon Pollution Can Reduce Future Fire Risks

To prevent wildfires from getting much worse and to limit the risks communities and wildlife, we must reduce carbon pollution. Just this week a new climate study came out making projections that many areas of the world, including the western United States, should expect even more fires if we continue spewing carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

Take Action

Fortunately, we know what steps to take to and have the tools to start taking action now. The Environmental Protection Agency is creating the first limits on carbon pollution emitted from power plants. Please take a moment right now to tell the EPA you support limits on industrial carbon pollution.

By: Amanda Staudt

Amanda Staudt's Bio // Archive of Posts
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Showing 6 comments

  • []   Ken Ashe
    This makes perfect sense, but I've never thought about it before. Maybe because I live on the East Coast, it's easier for my to put the fires out of my mind, but I do see a collation between the two.
  • []   Kenny Tapp
    This author and entire paper connects the WRONG dots.  The intensity of wildfires today is directly related to the widespread wildfire suppression efforts that became effective after World War II by the US government.  That policy has changed in the past 20 years, the US Forest Service now only *contains* wildfires if it doesn't have an immediate threat to life and property.  Suppressing the natural wildfires for nearly 75 years caused overgrown conditions to exist at the forest floor.  Fire is a natural way to remove dead trees and limbs from the forest floor.  Today's fires in the western US are incredibly more intense because there is more fuel for the fires to burn.  All vegetation on the forest floor serves as fuel for fires.  Yes, drought and beetles (which kill trees and add to the fuel on the forest floor) contribute to the intensity of present-day wildfires.  The US Forest Service, as well as many other federal land management agencies, created the National Fire Plan almost 10 years ago to address this issue and to serve as a guide for federal, local, and private land owners to restore ecosystems to their natural fire-adaptive structure.  The fact that the author failed to mention any of this material or peer-researched knowledge is of disappointing concern about the credibility of the NWF.  If the author had taken 20 minutes on any web search engine, the results would have provided plenty of information about how the intensity of wildfires in areas where there were not overgrown conditions thanks to practices underscored by the National Forest Services, were incredibly lower and much easier to contain, thus significantly reducing the impacts of the fire to homes, communities, residents, and wildlife. 
  • []   D
    The media doesn't connect the dots because Corporations pay for advertisements, and Corporations, run by psychopathic CEO's, want nothing to do with the truth about climate science. Today's big time CEO's are not Eagle Scouts, and they were or are not members of the conservation society or the Explorer Posts, and depend their future on climate scientists around the world all being engaged in a giant left wing conspiracy to take their money. When you listen to how and why they deny any of this is due to mankind, it is because the solutions require them giving up their lofty posts on top of mount Dollar.
  • []   Joe Sixpack
    They shouldn't contain any of these fires. Just let them burn like before White men decided they could control God's plan for nature.
  • []   Richard Pauli
    Thanks so much for this superb report.  
    Current fire news is via  http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.u...
  • []   Bp
    The Missionary Ridge fire in 2002 burned 70,662 acres in LaPlata County.  
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ANS -- Fwd:

Hi everybody -- I am forwarding this short summary of an article sent to me by one of our readers (from Colorado).  It shows some of the real effects of cutting the "size of the government". 


Colorado is on fire, and there are other states also.


Record breaking temperatures, high winds, budget cuts. The

fleet of planes that drop the fire-retardent are at a minimal

though out the country!   Not just Colorado.  As we read it,

the planes are out dated.  Colorado alone lost 2 pilots and

2 planes in the fires just a couple of

weeks ago.  No word as yet as to why, but it is

speculated of un-safe planes, not pilot error. 


It has been reported here that last year there were 44 of these planes and

pilots through out the country, not just Colorado, however, with sever budget cuts to

the National Parks in this country where the "budget" is approved or not by

Congress, there are only 11 left, and they

are in need for up-grades or to be

replaced!!  ............ not individual states of the Union but

the entire US of A !

Saturday, June 23, 2012

ANS -- Be a Super PAC Watchdog

In case you didn't see this in the June AARP Bulletin, here is a short article with a couple of important facts in it.  I'll highlight them. 
Find it here:

Be a Super PAC Watchdog

You can do something about misleading political advertising

by: Kathleen Hall Jamieson | from: AARP Bulletin | June 6, 2012

When the fire broke out, there wasn't a moment to spare," said 78-year-old Ohioan Marlene Quinn in a Web video last October. "If not for the firefighters, we wouldn't have our [great-granddaughter] Zoey today. That's why it's so important to vote no on Issue 2." Within days, her video had been repurposed by a group favoring the Ohio ballot initiative to make it appear she supported the law that she wanted repealed. "She's right," said the deceptively edited ad. "By voting no on Issue 2, our safety will be threatened."

What happened next is a tale of the system working. Because that misleading ad was made not by a candidate but by a third-party group, a category that includes political parties, interest groups and super PACs, Ohio TV stations had a right to refuse it. When they learned about the duplicitous editing, a number of them did exactly that. Their actions remind us that although, with few exceptions, broadcast stations have to air ads sponsored by federal candidates, they can reject outside groups' ads or, if they choose to air them, insist that they stick to the facts.

More from the AARP Election 2012 Blog
The Annenberg Public Policy Center has a website viewers can us

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has a website viewers can use to protest the ads with their local stations, which have the power to reject them. ­ iStock

This year has seen an unprecedented amount of third-party advertising. By May 10, 534 groups organized as super PACs reported receiving $204,323,416 and spending $99,803,597 in the 2012 cycle, according to The level of inaccuracy in the third-party presidential ads has been high. As an Annenberg Public Policy Center study shows, from the Iowa caucuses through the Wisconsin primary, almost 57 percent of the $41.1 million deployed by the four highest-spending third-party groups was devoted to 19 ads containing misleading claims.

The deceptions were of the sort that shift votes. Imagine a potential supporter of Mitt Romney accepting at face value the false implication in an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ad that he engaged in Medicare fraud at a company owned by his Bain Capital firm. Or imagine a person who opposes abortion mistakenly believing a pro-Romney super PAC's false allegation that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported legislation facilitating abortion in China.

It's not hard to imagine a voter, misled by such claims, rejecting a candidate she would otherwise support.

Because they can charge more for third-party ads than for those by federal candidates, stations earn a windfall airing them. As CBS President Les Moonves told an entertainment law conference in March, "Super PACs may be bad for America but they're very good for CBS." But by taking seriously their right to insist on the accuracy of third-party ads and regularly debunking deceptive political ad content, stations can translate some of those profits into protection for the public served by their stations. That is what a new campaign by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania is asking them to do.

Go to the "Stand by Your Ad" page at APPC's and email your local station managers. Encourage them to protect their viewers from air pollution. The process takes less than two minutes. More than 900 of the 1,047 station managers have already heard from their viewers. Please make your voice heard now.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Friday, June 22, 2012

ANS -- The Wisconsin Blues

Here is an article about what happened in Wisconsin and why, and what the Dems should be doing to get the message across better.  There's a long good discussion at the site in the comments. 
Find it here:    
PS the last message was returned to me by Myastound (an email provider) labeled "message content is not acceptable here".  They are "reading" and censoring emails!  I find this outrageous. 

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Protest signs hang from the 'Forward' statue in front of the St  
Protest signs hang from the 'Forward' statue in front of the State Capitol. (photo: Getty Images)

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The Wisconsin Blues

By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling, Common Dreams

12 June 12


[] he Wisconsin recall vote should be put in a larger context. What happened in Wisconsin started well before Scott Walker became governor and will continue as long as progressives let it continue. The general issues transcend unions, teachers, pensions, deficits, and even wealthy conservatives and Citizens United.

Where progressives argued policy - the right to collective bargaining and the importance of public education - conservatives argued morality from their perspective, and many working people who shared their moral views voted with them and against their own interests. Why? Because morality is central to identity, and hence trumps policy.

Progressive morality fits a nurturant family: parents are equal, the values are empathy, responsibility for oneself and others, and cooperation. That is taught to children. Parents protect and empower their children, and listen to them. Authority comes through an ethic of excellence and living by what you say, rather than by enforcing rules.

Correspondingly in politics, democracy begins with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly both for oneself and others. The mechanism by which this is achieved is The Public, through which the government provides resources that make private life and private enterprise possible: roads, bridges and sewers, public education, a justice system, clean water and air, pure food, systems for information, energy and transportation, and protection both for and from the corporate world. No one makes it on his or her own. Private life and private enterprise are not possible without The Public. Freedom does not exist without The Public.

Conservative morality fits the family of the strict father, who is the ultimate authority, defines right and wrong, and rules through punishment. Self-discipline to follow rules and avoid punishment makes one moral, which makes it a matter of individual responsibility alone. You are responsible for yourself and not anyone else, and no one else is responsible for you.

In conservative politics, democracy is seen as providing the maximal liberty to seek one's self-interest without being responsible for the interests of others. The best people are those who are disciplined enough to be successful. Lack of success implies lack of discipline and character, which means you deserve your poverty. From this perspective, The Public is immoral, taking away incentives for greater discipline and personal success, and even standing in the way of maximizing private success. The truth that The Private depends upon The Public is hidden from this perspective. The Public is to be minimized or eliminated. To conservatives, it's a moral issue.

These conservative ideas at the moral level have been pushed since Ronald Reagan via an extensive communication system of think tanks, framing specialists, training institutes, booking agencies and media, funded by wealthy conservatives. Wealthy progressives have not funded progressive communication in the same way to bring progressive moral values into everyday public discourse. The result is that conservatives have managed to get their moral frames to dominate public discourse on virtually every issue.

In Wisconsin, much if not most progressive messaging fed conservative morality centered around individual, not social, responsibility. Unions were presented as serving self-interest - the self-interests of working people. Pensions were not presented as delayed earnings for work already done, but as "benefits" given for free as a result of union bargaining power. "Bargaining" means trying to get the best deal for your own self-interest. "Collective" denies individual responsibility. The right wing use of "union thugs" suggests gangs and the underworld - an immoral use of force. Strikes, to conservatives, are a form of blackmail. Strikebreaking, like the strict father's requirement to punish rebellious children, is seen as a moral necessity. The successful corporate managers, being successful, are seen as moral. And since many working men have a strict father morality both at home an in their working life, they can be led to support conservative moral positions, even against their own financial interests.

What about K-12 teachers? They are mostly women, and nurturers. They accepted delayed earnings as pensions, taking less pay as salary - provided their positions were secure, that is, they had tenure. In both their nurturance and their centrality to The Public, they constitute a threat to the dominance of conservative morality. Conservatives don't want nurturers teaching their children to be loyal to the "nanny state."

The truth that The Public is necessary for the Private was not repeated over and over, but it needed to be at the center of the Wisconsin debate. Unions needed to be seen as serving The Public, because they promote better wages, working conditions, and pensions generally, not just for their members. The central role of teachers as working hard to maintain The Public, and hence The Private, also needed to be at the center of the debate. These can only be possible if the general basis of the need for The Public is focused on every day.

Scott Walker was just carrying out general conservative moral policies, taking the next step along a well-worn path.

What progressives need to do is clear. To people who have mixed values - partly progressive, partly conservative - talk progressive values in progressive language, thus strengthening progressive moral views in their brains. Never move to the right thinking you'll get more cooperation that way.

Start telling deep truths out loud all day every day: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other. The Public is necessary for The Private. Pensions are delayed earnings for work already done; eliminating them is theft. Unions protect workers from corporate exploitation - low salaries, no job security, managerial threats, and inhumane working conditions. Public schools are essential to opportunity, and not just financially: they provide the opportunity to make the most of students' skills and interests. They are also essential to democracy, since democracy requires an educated citizenry at large, as well as trained professionals in every community. Without education of the public, there can be no freedom.

At issue is the future of progressive morality, democracy, freedom, and every aspect of the Public - and hence the viability of private life and private enterprise in America on a mass scale. The conservative goal is to impose rule by conservative morality on the entire country, and beyond. Eliminating unions and public education are just steps along the way. Only progressive moral force can stop them.

The Little Blue Book is a guide to how to express your moral views and how to reveal hidden truths that undermine conservative claims. And it explains why this has to be done constantly, not just during election campaigns. It is the cumulative effect that matters, as conservatives well know.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ANS -- Abortions Have Made Life Better for Millions Of Men: It's About Time to Speak Up in Support

an interesting, and new, perspective on abortion.  From Sara Robinson.
Find it here:   

AlterNet / By Sara Robinson
comments_image   386 COMMENTS

Abortions Have Made Life Better for Millions Of Men: It's About Time to Speak Up in Support

It's time for pro-choice men to step up -- because our choices change their lives, too.
June 19, 2012  |  
Photo Credit: DaveFayram
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Pro-choice activists have been saying for at least three decades that the landscape of the abortion debate won't permanently change until women are brave enough to do what gays did 30 years ago -- emerge from the shadows, speak our truth and demand respect for our decisions.

One in three women in America will have an abortion at some point in her life. There are roughly twice as many abortions as LASIK procedures performed in any given year. Given that overwhelming prevalence, it's high time for women who have had abortions to come out, step up, stand by their choices -- and refuse delivery on all attempts to burden them with regret or shame.

The GOP's legislative "war on women" and Darcy Burner's controversial "take a stand" moment at Netroots Nation have brought renewed vigor to solving the invisibility problem, sparking new campaigns to encourage women to reject right-wing attempts to shame and silence them. It's important work, with huge potential to change the way we talk about abortion for decades to come.

But through all of this fresh energy and determination, there's one set of big, deep voices that's conspicuously missing.

We need to hear from the men, too.

For every single woman who's ever had an abortion, there's a man somewhere in the story. For every woman who was able to delay motherhood until a better moment, or improve her existing kids' chances by not enlarging her brood, or end a pregnancy that was doomed to end in tragedy and pain, there's also a man out there who is not a father today -- or is a better father to the kids he has -- because a woman he was involved with had the means to make this decision.

Forty years of feminism notwithstanding, the reality in American politics and culture is that our national discussion around this issue won't materially change until men understand just how invested they are in this issue -- and then stand up with us to insist that our reproductive rights be protected and preserved.

It's not that there aren't plenty of male voices in this debate already. They're booming in loud and strong from the anti-choice side. We're getting an earful from the Catholic bishops (whose moral authority on any matter relating to sexuality should rightly be a national joke by now), Mormon elders, evangelical preachers, and pontificating legislators. Out front of the clinics, the furious guy who is raging because "the bitch killed my baby, and I didn't have a say in it" is a stereotype on picket lines from coast to coast. Men who think they have the right to control women's fertility are outraged when they find out that they have no rights at all -- and over the years, their anger has been a potent accelerant to the flames of anti-choice furor.

We've heard more than enough from them.

But even as we're getting an aggrieved earful from the full chorus of patriarchal bullies, our own pro-choice men have receded into the background of the conversation, to the point where they have no voice at all. Worse: these sweet guys think that by holding their tongues, they're doing us a favor. After all, they understand that getting pregnant is a lot like that old joke about your ham-and-eggs breakfast: the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. At the end of the day, the decision to carry on or terminate a pregnancy must, by moral right, remain in women's hands -- because while men are involved, women are committed, body and soul.

Men still enjoy the luxury of being able to choose their level of parental engagement. Some walk away and never see their baby. Others dedicate the rest of their lives to their kid's welfare. Which path they choose is totally their decision, and they can (and do) reconsider that relationship at any time, at will.

Women have no such choice. Once we're pregnant, we're in it, full-on, for the next 20 years, whether we want to be or not. Since we don't enjoy the wide leeway men are granted on the engagement front, it's essential that we maintain control of the one choice we do have -- that is, whether or not to go forward with the pregnancy at all. To a degree that's simply not true for men, we have a few short weeks in the first trimester of pregnancy to decide, once and for all, whether we're in or out. Once we make that call, there's no taking it back or changing our minds. We will live with that decision day in and day out for the rest of our lives.

Pro-choice men get this, and that's why they've stepped so far back from the political conversation. And pro-choice women have encouraged their silence, because we've learned the hard way that whenever we get men involved in these discussions, we're vastly raising the risk that some of them are going to try to assert control over our choices.

But it's time for both men and women to rethink this hands-off position. Recent research has found that the vast majority of women who have abortions don't make the decision on their own. We almost always turn to our partners, family members, spiritual advisers, and doctors as we weigh our options. And of those supporting players, it's our male partners who have the biggest stake in the decision, and play the biggest role -- which is why, better than 80 percent of the time, our partners not only know about the abortion; they also support it.

Just as we never hear from millions of women who have never regretted their decision to terminate a pregnancy, the millions of men whose lives have been unquestionably changed for the better by an abortion decision are also rendered completely invisible -- often, even to themselves. When I ask male friends about the role abortion has played in their lives, they get quiet, shy and furtive. "I supported my girlfriend through an abortion -- but I really don't think it's my story to tell," one told me. Or they simply don't make the connection at all. "Oh. My. God," another one said, his eyes getting wide with sudden realization. "If she hadn't had that abortion, I'd have been a father right now!" It was an ultimate "duh!" moment, as though he'd never really reckoned the full implications of this fact until just that moment.

The thing of it is, gentlemen: You do have a story to tell. You didn't make the final decision, but we know that in the overwhelming majority of cases, you were intimately involved in the conversations that led up to it. You were most likely the one who drove her to the clinic, and drove her home again. And the choice not to become a father, right at that particular moment, has had a major impact on every day of your life and every major decision you've made ever since.

Think about it. How would your life be different today if she hadn't chosen abortion? Would you be co-parenting with a woman you knew wasn't right for you? Or fathering more kids than your time and resources responsibly allow? Are there educational opportunities you would have had to skip, reducing your earnings for the rest of your life? Or career breaks that wouldn't have happened if you'd been encumbered with a kid (or another kid)?

Your life is the way it is right now because your female partner was able to make that choice when she needed to. If that hadn't been possible, you'd be having a very different day today.

That's why we need you to speak up now. What's at stake isn't just women's liberty -- it's yours, too. You don't have to tell the whole story. The details aren't anybody's business but yours and hers (and that's why abortion is legally a privacy matter). But we need to hear you say, "My life is better today because a woman made that choice. I supported her in making it, and we have no regrets." Every time you say that out loud, you are doing something that shifts the gravity of our national conversation a little bit for the better.

We need you in this conversation again, for a lot of reasons.

We need your credibility. As long as you keep silent, that small but screeching clutch of right-wing men will continue to command far more attention than the millions of embattled women who are trying to protect their reproductive rights. It's sad but true that male voices and interests still carry more weight in our culture than female ones do -- especially with the kind of patriarchal men who have chosen this as the political hill they're going to die on. We can't tell those guys to STFU. We've been trying for decades, but their sexism totally deafens them to voices in our higher register.

But you will be heard. If you start making it clear that this is an issue that matters to all men -- and that you're willing to defend it, because it matters to you very personally -- they will at least be able to hear you and respect you in a way that they will never hear or respect us. You bring authority that we can't. And that, right there, will change the dialogue dramatically.

We need your political support. As long as abortion is seen as simply a "women's issue," politicians can keep shunting it off to the side as a "special interest" matter -- the kind of thing Serious People don't really have to deal with -- rather than an everyday medical procedure that ensures the liberty and prosperity of every fertile adult American of either gender. If you guys start owning how important abortion has been in determining the path of your own lives, it stops being a women's issue and becomes a human right issue --  a non-negotiable matter of equality and opportunity for everybody.

We need your social support. I was in the room when Darcy Burner asked the women of Netroots Nation to stand if they'd had an abortion -- and then asked the rest of the crowd to "stand with these women." According to one woman who stood, "Having everyone else stand afterwards, saying, in essence, 'You are not alone' was incredibly powerful." She said she felt like 50 pounds had been taken off her shoulders. That's how heavy this burden has been for us. It's deformed us, silenced us and changed the way we view ourselves and our lives.

You can help us put that burden down for good. We, the women you love -- the ones who've mothered you, put up with you, slept with you, and been adored by you; the ones you've lived with, married and made witness to your lives -- have carried this burden of shame and isolation alone for far too long. More often than not, you have been our partners in making these decisions, and our main source of support in carrying them out. And your lives were changed by that, just as much as ours were. Abortion is your issue, your story and your fight, too. And when you stand up with us -- and for us -- in defending that story and fighting that fight, you bring with you the power to transform the entire conversation for everyone.
Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a social futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.